Ask someone over 70 what concerns them most about getting older and you’ll get a variety of answers, but falling will likely be in the top 10. If someone has fallen and been hurt in the past, then falls become top of mind. More than a third of people over 65 fall each year and that’s why it’s so important to guard against falling by building leg strength and staying active.
What causes balance issues? Disorders such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, dementia and even mild concussions can interfere with the brain’s ability to keep the body balanced.
Medications used to treat allergies, anxiety, insomnia or depression can lower blood pressure to the point of dizziness or make a person feel sleepy during the day, which can lead to a fall.
“When you are feeling dizzy it can seem like you are spinning or that the whole world around you is spinning,” said Jenn Kitchen, United’s exercise therapist. “This can increase your risk of falling and lead to an overall feeling of unease. So we’ve created classes that are unique to Calgary’s older adult communities that focus on dizziness and how to combat that feeling of vertigo.”
You depend on three systems working together to help you keep your balance:
- Your eyes, which help you determine where your body is in space and how it’s moving;
- Your sensory nerves, which send messages to your brain about body movements and positions;
- Your inner ear, which houses sensors that help detect gravity and back-and-forth motion.
Vertigo is the feeling that your surroundings are spinning or moving. With inner ear disorders, your brain receives signals that aren’t consistent with what your eyes and sensory nerves are receiving. Vertigo results as your brain works to sort out the confusion.
More about it can be found here, but basically dizziness occurs when some of the calcium carbonate crystals that are normally embedded in gel in your ear become dislodged and move where they shouldn’t be. These dislodged crystals can interfere with the normal fluid movement that is used to sense head motion, causing the inner ear to send false signals to the brain.
Fortunately, there are easy treatments to help you overcome dizziness issues. “There are easy, non-strenuous exercises that you can use to strengthen the link between the ears, and the process that detects movement with the eyes and brain. We want to have all three systems work in conjunction more effectively,” said Jenn. “We’ve designed a program where you will learn several techniques to align the body’s balance systems more effectively.”
Some of the things you will learn in Jenn’s new class include simple exercises for the eyes and head to help retrain the brain to cope with the skewed signals coming from the inner ear. Exercises such as squats, two-leg stance and one-leg stance, jogging and various ways of walking are explained as ways to improve balance.
Along with Jenn’s dizziness class, United offers yoga and Tai Chi classes, and balance and strength classes to give you the best ammunition to guard against falls.
Do you know a friend or family member who could benefit from living in a United community? Send them a link to our website or blog, or arrange a tour. We are happy to help!